Larger Than Life Charismatic Storyteller

Curator’s Note: This is a story from a good friend of ours from Springville, Wendy Johnson (Roberts). Thank you, Wendy, for sharing such detailed memories. I laughed more than once remembering these stories.

When I was 18, I met Kirk. He had always been in my peripheral vision. He was that really tall, big guy that was super funny, but I was mildly intimidated by him because he towered over me, and most of our classmates too! I was a nerd girl, and an artist. I was friendly, but insecure and was not noticed by the guys in our class. Or perhaps I was a fashion disaster. Actually, I know I was a fashion disaster. For whatever reason, I really didn’t go out on a lot of dates until college, and I found my place amongst the Dungeons and Dragons, drama, and artist people. Kirk was not nerdy, so we didn’t have much in common during many of our school years, and he hung out with a different group of friends. So it took all the way until our senior party (literally the day we were graduating) for me to actually meet Josh Bancroft (who is a nerd – and I mean that as a compliment/statement of fact), and by extension, I finally met Kirk. At that time, if you knew one of them, you knew both of them. They were always together, like brothers (except they didn’t beat each other up or squabble over who got to be Optimus Prime). (Little does she know… – Josh) I spent many happy hours visiting and sometimes double dating with Josh as my date, and one of my friends as Kirk’s date. Most of the time we would just get together and talk and maybe play pool, go out to eat, or drive around and listen to amazing tales that were from a world of Kirk’s own making. Kirk’s world was more vivid than the one I knew. Everything was a little more sinister, amazing, ridiculous, or obvious. He was one of the best storytellers I have known. I can name a short list of maybe five people who have a similar level of storytelling charisma, and that’s all out of the many, many people I have met in this life. He was really unique! Anything could be made into a monologue that somehow transported you into this alternate Kirk-reality. In this dimension, Kirk seemed to be the only guy who really knew how to drive.

I loved it when Kirk would talk about driving. Being a professional truck driver is phenomenally hard, especially pulling multiple trailers. Until I talked to Kirk, I took truck drivers completely for granted. But he told stories about his experiences of trying not to squish stupid little cars who would weave in and out of traffic without understanding how dangerous it is to get in the space in front of a truck. (It is REALLY hard to brake – don’t ever pull into that space!). He would also tell us about watching others learn to drive commercial trucks, and it was fantastic. If someone made a driving mistake, Kirk could make it into an epic tale of jackknifing that should never have happened to anyone (idiot!), and everyone would laugh. If the hapless driver would have been there, he would have laughed too because Kirk was even funny when you were the subject of his teasing. But mostly he told his tales of horrible luck and unbelievable strings of coincidences that made the world seem almost mythical, and certainly it was constantly full of mishaps for Kirk. Of course this was also hilarious to hear. He had a dry, sarcastic wit, and a knowledge of human nature far beyond his years. There was lots of laughter whenever Kirk was talking.

I can only give a synopsis for one of the funniest stories he ever told me, and I will not be able to do ANY justice to his tale. It’s a performance, and he was the only one could tell it right, but it involved a truck of disgusting animal leftovers in liquid form, a brand new pair of boots, and a horrible mishap that ended up spilling the contents of the aforementioned truck all over the aforementioned boots, thus ruining the new boots beyond any desire to save them. His descriptions were vivid. It was horrible, and I laughed so hard that I am still laughing when I think of it all these years later.

Kirk could also tell amazing creepy stories. There was the truck, Legion, that would close or lock its own doors, and start its own engine, and whatever else I have blocked out of my memory for the sake of being able to sleep at night. When he got into creepy story mode, it really made your hair stand on end because he assured you it was ABSOLUTELY true. I always thought he looked a little mischievous at times like this. After that, the wind and the water in the ditch seemed unsettlingly sentient when I would get home.

Kirk knew how to drive, and he knew how to make it look easy. When I stepped into the cabin of the semi once to ride with he and Josh as they drove the truck to some place that it was supposed to be stored, I was completely, absolutely frightened like a ninny by the intimidation factor of that truck. It was huge, and I felt like we were going to mow down every traffic light in town, and plow into every building. It did not seem possible to maneuver something that felt only slightly smaller than an aircraft carrier through the streets of Springville. Yet, I know he drove in places much harder, narrower, and more unlikely. Those old East coast cities have narrow streets, but I know he could drive even them. He really gave me an appreciation for what truck drivers go through to make a living. It is hard work, and he was really gifted. Trucks break down a lot. He could fix a lot of his own mechanical issues with the truck, and since I really didn’t see him at work all that much, I bet he could do a lot more repair work than I ever witnessed.

Kirk and Josh both held down really good jobs starting unusually young. Kirk was driving and had considerable experience in the field by the time I met him. He was very responsible. He seemed much more grown up than I was. Scratch that. He WAS much more grown up than I was. He had a good work ethic, and when he was in his time off, he liked to play just as hard. He didn’t seem to go through a stupid teenager phase. He kind of skipped straight from whatever he was before middle school, straight to being an adult. I meanwhile, snivelled my moody way through college in awe of his grown-up-ness.

I also remember Brand X whenever I think of our times with Kirk and Josh. Both men loved their hamburgers. And those were the best hamburgers I ever tasted. They added some sort of spice to the hamburger, (possibly an addictive drug? Cocaine? or Fry Sauce?) Hmmm.. I dunno, but they were awesome. It’s closed now (Tragedy! – Josh), but I have only eaten burgers a few times in the years since they closed. It’s just not the same!

About a year after I started being friends with Kirk and Josh, I entered the darkest days of my life to date. My Dad passed away leaving me in a deep grief, I cannot begin to describe it. I am so sorry that Kirk has passed young because I know what that means for his kids. Kirk and Josh were there to take my mind off my struggles. I really relied on my network of friends during this time, and I appreciate very much the support and the smiles that they offered during a time where I mostly remember being sad and lost. It is this experience of grieving for my Dad that compels me to write down my memories of Kirk. My Dad’s friends have told me about my Dad, and it is never enough. Fifteen years later, I still cannot be satiated. Every story is a precious treasure, and when I hear a new story, I will think about it and smile for days, no matter how trivial it is. The more I grew up, the more I wanted to know what he was like from the point of view of an adult. And this is what I can tell you in general about Kirk, from my point of view as a fledgling adult just heading off from high school to embrace the potential we all held within us. In general, Kirk was larger than life. He was big and tall, but he had even bigger charisma. He could have been a tough, mean guy, and no one would have been able to do anything about it, but he was very thoughtful and generous instead. Kirk was intimidating if you didn’t know him, but that didn’t last long. He exuded warmth and humor once you had the pleasure of actually talking to him. At the age I knew him (18 – 20) , he was entertaining, thoughtful, generous, mischievous, sarcastic, charismatic, good-natured, honest, blunt but not rude, hilariously paranoid, chivalrous, tough, hard-working, animated, expressive, commanding, strong, competent, mature, independent, well-liked, charmingly superstitious, confidant, full of joy, and smiling most of the time. To Kirk’s kids, I say you have a lot to be proud of in your Dad. The best thing you can do to honor him is to seek a happy life full of meaning and joy. He loved you, and that is what any parent wants for their kids. He was a great person and you are lucky to be his favorite people, and his legacy. And to Kirk, thank you for your friendship! You brightened our lives.